Collections lie at the heart of a museum and distinguish them from other institutions. The Whatcom Museum holds close to 30,000 objects of art, history, and ethnography in its collection and more than 200,000 images and related ephemera in its photo archives. Throughout our more than 75-year history, we have predominately relied upon donations from the public to add to and strengthen our collection.
We focus on collecting works of art from the nineteenth century forward that were either produced in, or were about, the Pacific Northwest. Such works include paintings, works on paper, sculpture, photographs, crafts, or multi-media material. In addition, our collection includes American Art of the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries that have had significant influence on the art or artists of the Pacific Northwest. More recently, we have expanded our collecting scope to include pieces from national and international artists that enhance or complement our existing collection.
Our collections include objects that reflect the richness and diversity of Pacific Northwest history from post-settlement to the present day. With an emphasis on the Victorian era, our collections include examples of everyday domestic items; tools and equipment vital to the agricultural, timber and fishing industries; as well as other items representing prominent milestones in the development of the Pacific Northwest and region.
The Whatcom Museum holds objects of material culture created by people of the Pacific Northwest region’s indigenous cultures with collections consisting of decorative, ceremonial, or utilitarian items. Most significantly, our collection includes more than 500 baskets with an emphasis on those made by people from the coastal regions of Alaska, British Columbia, and Washington.
Whatcom Museum holds an extensive photo archives collection with more than 200,000 cataloged items that include images created by regional photographers, images of local subject matter, as well as some select historic paper artifacts. Images include regional photographs, negatives, slides, film, and video from the nineteenth century to the present from Whatcom, Skagit, Island, and San Juan counties within the State of Washington, as well as areas of Alaska with strong links to the economy and history of this region.